Earl Miller (85) was born on Aug. 5, 1934, near Big Falls, Minn., on the Sturgeon River, to Julia and Chris Miller. He graduated from Falls High School in 1952. Earl met the love of his life, Barb Gilbertson, and on May 14, 1955, they were married at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. They celebrated 65 anniversaries together. Earl and Barb had four children – Pam, Patty, Wendy, and Jim, who love them so much.
Earl was drafted into the Army at age 22. He went to basic training at Fort Chaffe, Ark., and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Earl drove on nightly patrols, taking samples and securing oil and gas lines to and around the military base. He earned $30 per month and sent most of it back home. After 19 months, Earl sailed back home on the USS General W.A. Mann (AP-112) troop transport ship. He was honorably discharged and returned home to International Falls to see his wife Barb and his 1-year-old daughter, Pam, for the first time. Earl built two homes from scratch; the first in Ranier, Minn., and the second, his permanent home on Ninth Street. Earl worked at his brother Roy’s business, Miller Oil, and then for Century Matthews until he hurt his back. He then worked for the Daily Journal as the circulation manager. He also started and managed the Falls Office Supply. Earl owned both a small carpet cleaning business and a small appliance business on the side. He was appointed Deputy Registrar, where he built and operated the Falls License Bureau for over 20 years before retiring. In retirement, he was a school bus driver for the Falls School District and served on the Falls Cemetery board. He was Quartermaster at the Veterans of Foreign Wars and their chief bookkeeper for many years.
Earl was a patient, kind, fun, and attentive father. He loved his four children, 10 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren- and they adored him. When his children were young, he would spend countless hours with each of them. Earl loved bringing his kids into the outdoors, whether it was to pick wild blueberries, collect diamond willow branches, drive them down old dirt roads, or walk in the woods. He took them camping, downhill skiing, fishing, and on family trips. Earl loved his Sunday visits with Pam and Mark, drinking mocha Frappes, sharing a meal, long visits, and many games of cribbage. He enjoyed visiting Patty and Todd at their hunting shack and cabin. He cherished the time Patty spent with them playing cards, watching movies, just visiting and loved being ahead in practical jokes with Todd. Earl proudly attended the annual Veterans’ breakfast together with his daughter Wendy. They laughed together and compared their Army stories. He loved hunting and fishing and would often go with his son Jim. They spent countless mornings driving to his favorite spots, sighting in the deer rifle, and sometimes just walking the ridges together.
When interacting with children, Earl spent more time listening and asking questions than talking. He let his wisdom shine and always set a good example. Earl knew that children learn best by doing. It would often take Earl twice as long to complete a task in the yard or on errands around town because many times, he had a child slowing him down. Not only did Earl not mind this, he cherished it! Whether he was scraping paint from old windows, trimming trees, or making something in his garage, he often had a child following him. Earl strongly felt that kids learn life skills best by watching adults and then trying for themselves with patient and attentive guidance. He gave this advice to his kids as young parents.
Earl was a creative and skilled carpenter, mechanic, and handyman. He could look at something and then go into the garage and make it, take it apart, or fix it. Earl loved tinkering in his garage by himself or with his brother Roy. He found out about his artistic talents later in life when he began woodcarving and making Intarsia woodcuts. He could convert a raw block of wood into a highly realistic, finely-carved, and painted bird or loon that his children still cherish.
Earl was very close with his brother Roy. They built houses directly across the street from one another. They could often be found in each other’s garage, building something out of wood or taking apart an engine. He loved visiting with his brother Harold in Big Falls, his sisters, Carol and Joanne, and kept in touch with them and their families. He loved his sisters-in-law Gail and Maxine and their husbands Bob and Benny, his brothers-in-law Jack and Ron, and their beautiful families. Earl made many great friends at the McDonald’s coffee club and always enjoyed spending time with them. His sweet spirit and humble nature made being around him a joy. Earl looked forward to his many visits and rides with Pam’s husband, Mark, whether exploring an old road or driving to an out of town appointment. He also loved joking around with his Sons-in-law Steve and Todd and the time he spent with his Daughter-in-law Adena.
Earl loved playing card games with his family. Cribbage and crazy eights were his favorite. He was a tease and a practical joker and loved having fun with his family. Earl loved Rainy Lake. He enjoyed boating, fishing, and taking his children water skiing whenever he could. He bought a secluded piece of land on Red Crest Island, where he built a beautiful lake cabin in 1987. His family enjoyed it for many years, and spending time there was one of his greatest joys. He had a funny and endearing way with his grand and great-grandchildren — like forehead bumps, arm wrestling, and walking together. He loved it when his whole family could gather for a holiday meal.
Earl was a wise, honest, kind, and selfless soul. He was slow to spend money on himself but generous towards others. Earl was always there for his family and his friends, no matter what. He had a strong faith and was a proud member of the St. Thomas Aquinas Church and the Knights of Columbus. Earl was the primary caretaker and a beacon of strength through Barb’s health challenges. He faced each with courage, optimism, and diligence. He showed us all how to properly care for those we love. Earl was always at Barb’s side and supported her in extraordinary ways. She called him her ‘Knight in Shining Armor.’ They were a truly fantastic team, and he showed us all how to accept the most stressful life challenges with grace and dignity.
Earl is survived by his daughters Pam (Mark) Rooney, Patty (Todd) Pavleck, and Wendy (Steve) Hanson and his son Jim (Adena Borodkin). Ten grandchildren: Lisa (Evan), Kari (Dan), Emma, Logan, Regan, Reid, Elyse, Jillian, Seth, Leah, and five great-grandchildren, Adam, Eric, Emily, Teddy, and Evie.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Barbara Miller, his parents, Chris Miller and Julia (Skahl) Tofte, his brothers, Harold (Rose) Miller, and Roy (Carol) Miller, his sisters, Carol (Ray) Tucker and Joanne Tofte, and his grandparents, Ole and Ingeborg Skahl and Johanna and Charles Peterson.
Earl died on June 26, 2020. The world suffered the loss of one of the finest people in our community. He was honest, kind to all, and always gave others his time and attention. He was one of the good guys, wonderfully unselfish, and his passing will leave a large void in the fabric of our community, just when we need people like him the most. Earl left a lasting legacy for us all and lived a beautiful life.
Due to the COVID pandemic there will be a small family service for Earl and Barb. A memorial mass will be held at a later date. Memorials are preferred to St. Thomas Catholic Church and Fairview Range and Hospice.
Condolences may be left at www.greenlarsen.com.
Arrangements are with Green-Larsen Mortuary, Inc.